Without a doubt, 1998 has been a tremendous year for U.S. housing, but industry economists warn that a contraction is coming next year even as interest rates remain low and inflation is nonexistent.

While none of them see a recession on the horizon, they are looking for substantial slowing in the year ahead for the economy as a whole, with a mild economic pickup in 2000. Housing, the economists say, simply cannot be immune from a broad economic slowdown.

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